An Update From the Honors Program Director
May 16, 2016
My fifth year as Director of the Honors Program was a notable one for the Program itself. This past May we graduated another stellar class of students, including roughly forty recipients of Distinction as a University Scholar. Stand-outs from this particular class include sociology major Savannah Purdy, the winner of this year's Phyllis Betts Award for academic excellence in the Honors Program; Manly E. Wright valedictory award winner Dylan Cromer, physics major and one of the first recipients of Recognition as an Honors Scholar; and math/sociology double-major Sara Gerall, a December grad whose incredible commitment to the welfare of the Honors community earned her our second annual Honors Program Citizenship Award. Meanwhile, Carrie Plaxco joined us as the new Honors Program Assistant, joining nearly one hundred of our program's students in helping to host the annual spring conference of the Southern Regional Honors Council. In March and April of 2017, almost 800 students, staff, and faculty from honors programs and colleges throughout the Southeast joined us in Asheville an a three-day celebration of diversity-themed interdisciplinary learning and community engagement. Many thanks to all of those who made this conference the enermous success that it was!
Our new academic year, my sixth as Director, has proven noteworthy already itself. Our new efforts to reach out to transfer students resulted in the enrollment of nearly thirty new transfer students in Honors, more than three times as many transfer students who'd joined the program in the previous five years put together! Many of these students will strive to complete the requirements for Recognition as an Honors Scholar, a acknowledgement of sustained commitment to the program that takes into account the challenges transfer students face in graduating in a timely fashion.
The Student Honors Advisory Program continues to amaze with outstanding co-curricular and extracurricular activities, fronted by the increasingly popular lecture series, Sparks. This fall we've welcomed back to campus May 2015 Honors alumna Janna Peterson, who now serves the city of Rock Hill, South Carolina, as an urban planner. Her Sparks talk offered Honors students an opportunity to learn about the skills required of this challenging and highly interdisciplinary profession. Other Sparks talks, all given by current Honors students, regarded art restoration and preservation and cetacean intelligence.
Honors students have been busy off-campus, too, including over a dozen first-year Honors students engaged in archival study and field resesarch to better understand the impact of urban renewal on our city's historically African neighborhoods; three students who traveled to Charlotte to present at this year's fall meeting of the North Carolina Honors Association; and several students who played an active role in a campus/community reading group centering on Michelle Alexander's seminal work on criminal justice, The New Jim Crow.
As the fall semester's end nears, we're looking forward to more major events involving the Honors Program. January will bring an off-campus theatrical event co-sponsored by the Honors Program, a January 17 production of the dramatic reading ON THE ROW, produced by the Northwest Arkansas Prison Story Project (led by David Jolliffe of the University of Arkansas) and featuring writing by several Arkansas death row inmates. The following day, Michelle Alexander will come to our campus and offer a moderated discussion on her book, with Honors students having an opportunity to supply questions for this internationally known expert on mass incarceration. Of course, we will look forward to admitting many more talented students during our open application process in the spring (applications go live on January 1!).
I hope that you'll continue to check in and learn more about what the UNC Asheville Honors Program has to offer. We're always on the move!
Patrick Bahls, University Honors Program Director